BYU’s non-conference slate ended better than even the most optimistic of fans could have predicted. BYU went 12-1, has at least one quality win under its belt, and a nation-leading 28.8 point per game point differential that propelled BYU to a metrics darling. As of December 31, BYU is 2 in NET and 3 in KenPom. The Utah loss stings no doubt, but a road loss to a really good Utes team is nothing to scoff at.
Before getting into some of the nitty gritty, I’m laying out some terminology. The Selection committee breaks out wins/losses into four different tiers based on NET rankings. A Quad one game is versus a top 30 team at home, top 50 on a neutral floor, and top 75 on the road. Quad two is versus a top 75 team at home, top 100 on a neutral floor, and top 135 on the road. Quad three a versus teams 76-160 at home, 101-200 on a neutral floor, and 136-240 on the road. Quad four is everything else.
Non-conference results are less important as a Big 12 member than ever before in BYU’s basketball history since BYU will have a bevy of Quad one/two conference games, but you still need to do something in non-league play.
Take Oklahoma State and West Virginia last year as prime examples. Oklahoma State finished 8-10 in conference play while West Virginia went 7-11. The Mountaineers were safely in the NCAA Tournament as a 9 seed while the Cowboys missed the tournament. A big reason was because of non-conference results. Oklahoma State had zero Quad one wins in non-league play and its lone Quad two win was a ho-hum home win versus Sam Houston. The Cowboys also had a Quad 3 home loss to Southern Illinois.
West Virginia, meanwhile, had a Q1 road win at Pitt, Q2 wins over Florida and UAB, and zero Quad 3 or 4 losses.
BYU undoubtedly scheduled soft in non-league play, but had zero bad losses, a Quad one win over San Diego State, and two Power Six wins over NC State and Arizona State. Since every team in the Big 12 is a quality opponent, BYU ensured they will end the season with zero bad losses, which will be beneficial if BYU either finds itself on the bubble or is jockeying for seeding.
Out of 362 teams, KenPom rates BYU’s OOC strength of schedule 299 and NET has BYU’s OOC SOS middle of the pack at 129.
Quad one and Quad two games are the two tiers that move the needle for resume-enhancing results.
San Diego State should end up a Quad one win and has brand recognition. The Aztecs are 23 in NET and need to be top 30 to remain in that tier. The Aztecs are finally fully healthy and coming off a road win at Gonzaga to end non-nonconference play 11-2. They are among the favorites to win the Mountain West.
NC State is currently 68 in NET and a Quad two win. If they can climb into the top 50 during ACC play they would jump to a Quad one win.
If the season ended today, those would be BYU’s two quality non-conference wins.
Games that could jump to resume-boosting wins
Arizona State and Evansville are both currently Quad 3 wins but could jump to Quad two wins during the season. The Sun Devils are 130 in NET and need to move to the top 100 to be a Quad two win for BYU. They’ll have plenty of chances in Pac-12 play to get there. At a minimum, ASU is a P6 win for BYU even if they remain in Q3 territory.
Evansville has been a surprise to start the year. After a 5-27 season last year, the Aces are 10-3 and 96 in NET. They would be a Quad two win for BYU if they can sneak into the top 75 during Missouri Valley play. They’ll have a Quad one opportunity this coming Wednesday when they play at Indiana State.
BYU’s position heading into Big 12 play
Overall, BYU put themselves in good position to make the NCAA Tournament heading into Big 12 play. If BYU goes at least 7-11 in the Big 12, I think they will get into the NCAA Tournament. Their dominating results through the first 2 months gives them a long leash to burn through for the metrics to hold up well into March. A 7-11 finish in Big 12 play would likely mean at least two Quad one wins and a handful of Quad two wins. That paired with wins over SDSU and NC State, zero bad losses, and NET and KenPom rankings likely in the top 50 would give BYU a good shot to sneak in. Or, BYU can go .500 or better in Big 12 play and hunt for a single-digit seed and path to a Sweet 16.